Potentiometers

A potentiometer is a variable resistor. Potentiometers enable you to regulate and change the current flowing through a circuit. Potentiometers can also be called pots or potmeters.

Potentiometers have two terminals that are fixed to a resistive element (the track). The resistive element is typically wirewound or made from carbon, cermet or conductive plastic. The third terminal is connected to the wiper, which is a sliding contact. As the wiper moves along the track, the resistance changes and the current flowing through the circuit changes.

Types of potentiometer


Rotary potentiometers are easily controlled by turning a spindle or a knob. Rotary potentiometers can be single turn or multiturn.

Slide potentiometers are also known as slider potentiometers or fader potentiometers. To use a slide potentiometer, it’s simply a case of sliding a fader along a straight track to change the resistance.

Trimmer potentiometers, sometimes called trimpots, are used to calibrate and fine-tune circuits and can be mounted straight onto a PCB (printed circuit board). Trimmer potentiometers are easy to adjust with a screwdriver.

String potentiometers (or string pots) take movement and transform it into an electrical signal.

Membrane potentiometers are completely flat. Membrane potentiometers change their resistance when pressure is applied to the membrane.

Do I need a potentiometer with a linear or logarithmic taper?

The taper you need for your potentiometer depends on the intended application.

For potentiometers with a linear taper, the resistance between one end of the track and the wiper varies at a constant rate. If you turn the potentiometer halfway or slide the fader halfway along the track, the resistance will be half of the total resistance. Linear taper potentiometers are typically used in applications such as light dimmer switches.

For logarithmic taper potentiometers, the resistance does not vary at a constant rate. The level of resistance moves exponentially up or down. A potentiometer that has been turned or moved halfway along its track, will not produce resistance that is half the total resistance. Logarithmic potentiometers are commonly used for audio applications.

What is the difference between a potentiometer and a rheostat?

The key difference is the number of terminals that each device has. Potentiometers have three terminals while rheostats only have two terminals.

Looking for peripherals for your potentiometer?

Potentiometer KnobsPotentiometer Accessories Potentiometer Mounting Nuts

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Description Price Maximum Resistance Potentiometer Type Number of Turns Number of Gangs Mounting Type Power Rating Shaft Diameter Electrical Taper Mounting Hole Diameter Element Material Termination Style Tolerance Series Shaft Length
RS Stock No. 502-8637
Mfr. Part No.TW1103KA
MYR59.59
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 236-9604
Mfr. Part No.RK27112A00CF
MYR180.67
Each
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK27 -
RS Stock No. 135-5049
Mfr. Part No.TW1103KA
MYR31.92
Each (In a Box of 500)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 729-3549
Mfr. Part No.RK0971114D0B
MYR16.27
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - - - Pin ±20% RK097 15mm
RS Stock No. 172-7676
Mfr. Part No.RK0971114D0B
MYR14.594
Each (In a Tray of 70)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK097 -
RS Stock No. 831-8712
Mfr. Part No.53C15K
BrandHoneywell
MYR77.32
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 19.1mm
RS Stock No. 167-5484
Mfr. Part No.PDB183-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
MYR14.651
Each (In a Bag of 100)
units
500 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 0.1W 6 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB183-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 770-3078
Mfr. Part No.PDB183-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
MYR22.46
Each
units
500 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 0.1W 6 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB183-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 850-9817
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-502
BrandVishay
MYR112.18
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 729-3454
Mfr. Part No.RK09L12D0A1T
MYR8.47
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK09L 20mm
RS Stock No. 172-7637
Mfr. Part No.RK09L12D0A1T
MYR7.586
Each (In a Tray of 100)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK09L -
RS Stock No. 167-9766
Mfr. Part No.357B0102MAB251S22
BrandVishay
MYR124.352
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 22
RS Stock No. 167-3611
Mfr. Part No.3682S-1-103L
BrandBourns
MYR122.439
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
10 kΩ Digital Display - 2 Panel Mount 2W - - - - Solder Lug ±3% 3680 -
RS Stock No. 460-2032
Mfr. Part No.357B0102MAB251S22
BrandVishay
MYR134.46
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Panel Mount 1W 22 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 22
RS Stock No. 248-6759
Mfr. Part No.3682S-1-103L
BrandBourns
MYR166.78
Each
units
10 kΩ Digital Display - 2 Panel Mount 2W - - - - Solder Lug ±3% 3680 -
RS Stock No. 729-3656
Mfr. Part No.RK09D1130C3W
MYR3.50
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09D 20mm
RS Stock No. 167-9349
Mfr. Part No.860B1103
BrandVishay
MYR605.191
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 8W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±1% 860 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 789-9475
Mfr. Part No.95A1A-B24-A20L
BrandBourns
MYR32.39
Each
units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% 95 19mm
RS Stock No. 294-3763
Mfr. Part No.860B1103
BrandVishay
MYR625.70
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 8W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±1% 860 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-5477
Mfr. Part No.95A1A-B24-A20L
BrandBourns
MYR20.402
Each (In a Tray of 45)
units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% 95 19mm